Before & After | A Lightroom Photo Editing Tutorial


I used to be a Photoshop girl.  I have spent countless hours in Photoshop, and appreciate the power & capabilities that it has.  However, I was getting frustrated with the amount of time it was taking me to edit a single gallery.  I had heard about Adobe Lightroom, but who has the time to learn a new program?

I downloaded the free trial, checked a study guide out from the library, and blocked off a day to sit down and see what it could do.  I am so glad I did because not only is it easy to learn and fairly intuitive, but most importantly I have shaved HOURS off of my editing time!  Now, my style of editing is clean and full of light, so if you like to edit in textures and such, you may still need to stick with Photoshop for most of your editing.

Here is an image SOOC (straight out of camera)  from a high school senior photo shoot last month:


Nikon D3S   85mm 1.2 lens

ISO 800    f/2.5    1/320th

Love her expression and connection with me, the hair light & and really love the bokeh in the background.

Do not like the white balance, the shadows under her eyes & some of the blemishes.

I shoot RAW, and import via Lightroom3 :

I start my process with adjusting exposure. Sometimes having the just-right exposure alleviates some of the color issues.  In this case it didn’t.

See the highlighted areas for the adjustments I made:

1.Warmed it up a tad to 4550, and compensated for most of the green color cast (from the grass) by increasing magenta (tint) by 10.  I find that the auto color correct doesn’t work so well for me, so I tend to just take a stab at it until it looks right.

2. Increased brightness to 60 and contrast to 30.  I normally do not go above 30 for contrast, since I like my images less ‘edgy’.

3. The secret weapon : CLARITY!  Love love this slider.  Gives everything nice softness, but not blurry.  My typical setting is 20, but in this case 20 was too much so I set it at 12.


Here’s another slider I cannot live without :

4.  Shadows.  Normally take it down between – 20 t0 -30.   Adds the element of contrast but in a gentler way, in my unofficial opinion!

5. Lens Corrections – I just do this on every photo as a preset.  Some need it more than others.


All right, so there are the basic edits.  A lot of the time I can stop at this and bring it into Photoshop for sharpening and web prep.  I don’t use a lot of actions, but when I do, I like to use the free actions from  Pioneer Woman at very low opacity.  Her actions are pretty great!

 On my to do list for this photo is to brighten her eyes and remove a few of her blemishes that I had discussed with her.  That may seem awkward, but before AND during the shoot I try to take any opportunity to bring up my editing philosophy – yes, I will removed ugly red pimples but I do not believe in removing birth marks or making you look like someone you are not.  Of course subject to every client’s taste. 🙂

   So in this case, we decided we would remove her (minor) blemishes.  And it is SO super easy to do in Lightroom!


Here are the blemish spots before:


Zoom in on your picture.

1. Click on the spot removal brush (yellow square in right panel)

2. Adjust size and opacity to taste.  I generally adjust the size to be a bit bigger than the blemish, and leave the opacity at 100.

3. Click on the blemish (yellow arrow on face)

4. After you click, another circle will appear (blue arrow on face) that will indicate the area to be duplicated over the blemish.  You can leave it as is, or drag that circle around until you find the best match.

5. Hit the DONE key and voila – blemish removed!  Who needs the cloning tool in Photoshop anyway?!



Pretty great, right?  And a fraction of the time it takes in Photoshop.


For the final piece, we will lighten and soften the shadows under her eyes and above her upper lip.  Here’s how:

1. Click on the adjustment brush, circled in yellow.

2. Adjust the Exposure slider to a low number, like .20.  Natural looking is the goal here!

3. Adjust the Clarity slider to -50 or so.

Adjust brush size, feather and flow to taste.  I normally leave feather and flow at 100.

4. Brush in the areas you would like to soften & lighten.  In this case I did under the eyes and above the lip.

5. Once you have brushed on, you can adjust the exposure and clarity sliders to taste.  In this case I increased the exposure and opacity a little bit for the desired look.


Perform the same action, minus the clarity reduction, to brighten the catch lights and the whites of the eye if necessary.

(I ALWAYS zoom out and check the before and after, to make sure the result is natural looking.)


Then I decided to crop it just a bit to bring her closer to thirds, and I added a slight vignette.


There you have it!

At this point I bring the photos into Photoshop for occasional levels brightening, sharpening, web prep and branding.  You better believe it is next on my list to figure out the most efficient way to do this in Lightroom!



Thanks for stopping by!



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